Alison Unsted, Head of Global Diversity, Inclusion, and Wellbeing Strategy told the CMHA:
We have a well-developed wellbeing programme, underpinned by our vision to promote the good health, wellbeing and resilience of our people, with a focus on prevention and early intervention. The programme is successful because of effective leadership, open communication and the comprehensive framework of support available.
In January 2016 we held our third annual ‘Wellbeing Week’, and enlisted the support of all our wellbeing providers, including occupational health, private medical insurance, EAP and gym provider, to ensure it targeted key areas. The week included a series of talks, promotions, and activities. As part of the week all employees were given a mindfulness colouring book and could also participate in colouring in giant mindfulness prints that hung in the reception area.
In May 2016 we marked Mental Health Awareness Week with two talks. ‘Let’s talk about it’ focused on being able to talk openly about mental health issues, and ‘Living with the two of them’ was a first-hand account of what it is like to live with someone with a mental health issue.
We also hosted the launch event for ‘This is Me,’ the pioneering City-wide mental health campaign initiated and led by the Lord Mayor’s 2016 Power of Diversity programme. The campaign seeks to reduce stigma and raise awareness around mental health in the workplace, by encouraging employees who have experienced a mental health problem to share their story with colleagues. Since we launched the campaign a number of people in the firm have come forward to share their stories, which has had a hugely positive impact.
Keeping employees mentally healthy is a continuous process, and the support of Nicholas Cheffings, Hogan Lovells Chair, and Susan Bright, Regional Managing Partner for UK and Africa, has been crucial in helping to foster the right climate. Engaging middle management has also been critical to success, as it is they who have the greatest impact on the day-to-day lives of their teams.
An important element of the wellbeing programme is ‘signposting’. Posters, desk-dropped postcards and stickers for security passes all carry the wellbeing services contact information, while a dedicated intranet site contains details of all the services. We have introduced resilience training into our key people development programmes, and pay particular attention to people when they are promoted as this is a typical ‘stress point’.
A dedicated on-site counsellor and a chaplain (for people of any or no faith) offer confidential advice on a self-referral basis, and there is a confidential support line available through the EAP provider.
Physical and mental health are linked, so we have a private GP service and an on-site gym with fitness centre, classes (throughout the day), physiotherapist and beauty therapist. We also run walking tours and a walking club during the summer, provide access to an online wellbeing portal where employees can access advice and tools tailored to their individual wellbeing needs, and are working with our occupational health adviser to provide tailored fitness programmes for those referred to them.
Our Disability and Wellbeing Network (DAWN) holds events throughout the year on topics such as sleep, mindfulness, depression and seasonal affective disorder.
We set up a choir in mid-2014, which has gained over 90 members, many of whom report feeling much happier at work since they joined. We’ve also provided a dedicated music room for anyone wishing to take time out of their day to play the piano or listen to music.
We measure the results. There have been over 4,000 hits on the intranet wellbeing site in the past 12 months. Wellbeing events throughout the year have been oversubscribed. The on-site counsellor has been fully booked-up by people from all levels, groups and departments across the firm. People who’ve done tailored programmes in the gym report higher energy and motivation, improved sleep and better work performance. And we are using metrics gained from the employee engagement survey, absence call centre, private medical insurance, EAP, occupational health and gym providers to monitor success and inform the future development of the programme.
We have seen a real shift in terms of the way people talk about mental health since we joined CMHA and launched our wellbeing programme in 2014. It has been warmly received, and people really want change because they understand that mental health touches us all. People are much more open, and wellbeing is a regular agenda item for executive board and management committees. We still have a way to go, but we’re on the right track.
We now want to focus on improving the conversations people have about mental health, and, in particular, giving supervisors and line managers the skills they need to feel more confident in having the conversations they need to have to support their team and to spot signs of mental ill health.
There is now an appetite to do something globally, and introduce a formal strategy led and sponsored by executive management, as it is in the UK. There is real acceptance now of the need to grapple with this issue and a willingness among people to open up and act as role models. Our aim is for everyone, whatever country they work in, to be one click or phone call away from help
Looking after our people is not only the right thing to do, but also, a healthy, engaged and resilient workforce is more productive, efficient and able to provide clients with the service they expect from us.
One of the biggest benefits of the CMHA is the fantastic collaboration it has fostered among firms who would normally be competing with each other. The members are a real community; we’re all in this together.